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ZooTampa working to treat manatees after year of record number deaths

Nearly $1 million is invested annually from the zoo for manatee rehabilitation.
Credit: ZooTampa

TAMPA, Fla — During the deadliest year for Florida's loved sea cows, leaders at critical care facilities are working urgently to try to save as many as they can.

ZooTampa's David A. Straz Jr. Critical Care Center has taken in 29 manatees suffering from malnutrition, red tide toxicity, watercraft injury and other illnesses, a news release from the zoo reports.

ZooTampa, one of only two facilities in the country able to take care of orphaned calves, is currently caring for four orphaned calves, the release explains.

“We’re alarmed about the record year of manatee deaths, but also steadfast in our 30-year commitment to saving every manatee we can,” ZooTampa's Senior Vice President of Animal Health Dr. Cynthia Stringfield said in a statement. 

“The solutions to the many problems facing these animals aren’t simple, and as conservationists, biologists, veterinarians, and experts across the state work on those issues, we’ll keep providing them the best care possible and celebrating everyone we save.”

More than 1,000 manatees have died in 2021, which surpasses the total of 637 deaths reported in 2020 and even the previous all-time high of 830 deaths in 2013, which happened following a red tide outbreak, The Associated Press explains. 

Following the record-breaking amount of deaths, the occasional good news of successful rehabilitation seems to bring positivity to sea animal lovers.

RELATED: FWC and ZooTampa leaders release manatee treated for red tide exposure

A not-so-small aquatic friend was released back into the water after recovering from red tide exposure.

Leaders from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and ZooTampa teamed up Thursday morning at the TECO Manatee Viewing Center in Apollo Beach to send the now healthy manatee, named Baylo, back home.

Baylo reportedly became the zoo's 12th manatee released this year after being treated and gaining 45 pounds.

“It’s a great day when we can release our patients,” Stringfield wrote. “All of the long days and nights are worth it when we see them swim safely back in Florida waters.”

Along with Baylo, another patient is receiving treatment at the Critical Care Center. Piccolina, the tiniest orphan calf ever treated at the hospital, was rescued in August from the Gulf of Mexico near Venice, the release says.

The tiny sea cow reportedly only weighed 44 pounds when she was first rescued but has a goal of reaching 600 pounds before being released back into the water.

The sick or injured manatees that are brought to ZooTampa end up staying in treatment for months or sometimes years, the zoo explains. 

Nearly $1 million is invested annually for manatee rehabilitation.

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